Fiji First promised the residents of a squatter settlement in Clopcott Street, Ba that they would all receive proper leases for the land they illegally occupied if they voted FF. The promise was made by B Bala and Khaiyum during their campaign meetings in the area. Fiji First won the (rigged) election but the promise of proper leases has not been kept.
Instead, the residents were issued Agreement for Lease which was handed to them amidst much fanfare in a gathering at the settlement. Here Khaiyum and Bala told them they could not go to their Bank or FNPF and obtain housing loans to build their homes.
There was much kava drinking, feasting and music at the function. The residents held high hope that they would, at last, have a home they could call their own.
Alas, their dreams were shattered when they were told by their Bank and FNPF that the agreements had no value and they could not be considered for housing loans.
The residents were shocked at being so badly cheated and deceived by those who are senior ministers in FF government now.
Bala and Khaiyum have not been back to see them or to explain why they cannot get a loan to build.
The residents aired their grievances in a meeting with Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry last week. They told him that the lease agreements were given to them to sign without anyone disclosing to them that there were special conditions attached to it which would cost them a huge sum to comply with before the actual leases can be issued. In the meantime, they are required to pay annual rent in addition to an yearly lease administration fee of $57.50, even though a lease is not issued.
The Agreement requires the residents to:
(1) Engage, at their own expense, a registered surveyor to carry out a survey of the land agreed to be leased and to prepare a survey plan within 3 months of being required to do so by the landlords (TLTB/Lands Department) and provide evidence satisfactorily to the landlord that such has been done. If this condition is not satisfied within the stipulated time, then the lease agreement ceases to have effect.
(2) Within 2 years from 1July 2014, even though the lease agreement is dated 15 October 2014, to erect on the land a dwelling house, to the satisfaction of the landlords and in accordance with Public Health and Town Planning Regulations, such dwelling house to be of a specified floor area.
(3) Pay the landlord 10% of the purchase price per lot as Premium after the completion and registration of the survey plan ( even though a purchase price is not stated in the lease agreement),
(4) Upon expiry of the lease, all buildings and other improvements on the land will revert to the landowning unit (in this case Native Lands). There is no provision for compensation to the tenant for such reversion.
The lease agreement may be terminated for breach of any of the provisions specified therein.
Conditions stipulated in the lease agreement have shocked the residents. The feel betrayed in a vote buying scam by Khaiyum and Bala. they revealed that the agreements were handed out to them individually and they were required to sign on-the-spot without being given time to read or without its contents being explained to them by the FF agents.
Said one resident who has lived in Clopcott for over 40 years:
“We were promised a lease not an agreement to lease. We were told our existing boundaries would be accepted and there would not be any need to survey as it would be taken care of by the landlords. We were told that we will not be able to obtain loans from banks or withdraw FNPF savings to build. They were all lies.”
What was Labour’s plan for Clopcott?
Mr Chaudhry said in 1999 the Labour-led Peoples Coalition Government had mandated the Housing Authority to take charge of the settlement under its squatter resettlement scheme. The Authority was to sub-divide the land, issue leases and approve housing loans to enable the residents to build and assume legal ownership of their properties.
“Our plans for the settlement were aborted by the May 2000 coup. Successive governments have not done anything to solve the problem. The latest attempt by FF was not sincere – it was just a vote buying exercise for them.
“The special conditions stipulated in the Agreement to lease are beyond the financial capability of the residents who are largely low income workers. They need to be assisted by the government of the day as do others in that category.
“It is a shame that people with ordinary incomes cannot afford to have their own homes and are taken for a ride by unscrupulous politicians,” said Mr Chaudhry.